Is current Super Eagles as good as the 94 class?

JOHANNESBURG – On February 10, 2013, the Super Eagles of Nigeria won their third Africa Cup of Nations title when they beat fellow West African nation Burkina Faso 1-0 at FNB Stadium in South Africa.

It was a campaign which had a fitting end for Africa’s most populous country. They played with intent, showed more hunger and winning the continent’s biggest soccer prize was a just culmination for a well-executed plan that came together just at the right moment.

On Wednesday night, the high-flying Eagles returned to the land which gave them the third African title for the annual Nelson Mandela Challenge tournament. At a carnival Moses Mabhida Stadium, Nigeria completely dominated the hosts, running away comfortable 2-0 winners.

While the result might reflect a close encounter, the truth is Bafana Bafana were totally outplayed in all departments hence the flattering scoreline.

The Super Eagles never moved out of the first gear. Had they been challenged much, there was clear evidence from the way they played that they had a lot in their reserves. In the end, they achieved the victory without breaking much of a sweat.

Having had the opportunity to watch all of the Super Eagles’ matches during the January-February fiesta, I was also privileged to witness Wednesday’s encounter, though I took the outcome with a heavy heart.

I am not a big fan of anything Nigerian. The West Africans are an arrogant lot, have little respect of other people’s opinion and as far as I am concerned, people who only believe what they say is correct have no place in me. But it is that attitude that has made what Nigerians are.

After Wednesday’s match, I did some introspection on whether this swashbuckling Super Eagles side has what it takes to emulate the 1994 giants that, according to many soccer analysts, were a class act.

Opinions will vary from individual to individual and from society to society but I have every reason to believe that if the current crop stick together and avoid the love of money, they can go places.

Yes, the 1994 squad that won the Africa Cup of Nations when they beat Zambia 2-1 in Tunisia was star-studded, larger than life and bullied anyone who stood in their way.

Remember the likes of goalkeeper Peter Rufai, defenders Stephen Keshi, Austin Eguavoen, Uche Okechukwu, Uche Okafor, midfielders Austin ‘Jay Jay’ Okocha, Samson Siasia, Sunday Oliseh, Finidi George and strikers Emmanuel  Amunike, Rashidi Yekini just to mention a few?

This was the squad that also made some sensation at the 1994 World Cup in the United States; pity they were knocked out in the second round of that tournament.

While the class of ’94 was adventurous and tough, there is some semblance that if the current Super Eagles group of players stay, eat and bond together, Nigeria might be the Spain of Africa as far as dominating soccer is concerned.

They have the swagger, arrogance and desire to succeed. Those characteristics are a hallmark of a team that wants to go places and die for the nation.

And in coach Stephen Keshi, they have the right man for the job. He is a hardened campaigner who has been there, seen it all and wants to make a name for himself as a coach.


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